Nec­es­sary changes for breath­ing space

How mov­ing out of the city could save your san­ity


Mov­ing about in the metro has be­come an un­mit­i­gated mi­graine. Traf­fic is al­most al­ways at a stand­still, there’s a crush of peo­ple every­where, and “Car­magged­don” and “Com­mu­taged­don” have now be­come buzz­words. And with Christ­mas com­ing soon and con­sumers about to go on buy­ing blitzes, it is only bound to get worse. The Land Trans­porta­tion Of­fice lists a to­tal of 2,101,148 mo­tor ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion in 2013 alone—that should give a pic­ture of how many ve­hi­cles are run­ning on metro roads at any given day.

Let’s talk liv­ing, too. There’s now a lack of de­cent liv­ing space that’s af­ford­able with an or­di­nary Joe’s salary. Rental fees, es­pe­cially in highly com­mer­cial­ized ar­eas, cost an arm and a leg, and condo units with a lower pric­ing range of­fer not much more than space for a bed, a bath­room, and maybe a hat stand. Even de­vel­op­ers are run­ning out of land to put up vi­able res­i­den­tial projects, re­sult­ing in anom­alies such as the much-pub­li­cized pho­to­bomber of the Rizal Mon­u­ment.

What’s more, the air qual­ity, along with prac­ti­cally ev­ery­thing else, has be­come haz­ardous to health. In a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Nasal Care Aware­ness fo­rum in Que­zon City last June, Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal and Nat­u­ral Re­sources-En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Bureau (DENR-EMB) as­sis­tant di­rec­tor Eva Ocfemia re­ported that the air pol­lu­tant con­cen­tra­tion in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion has reached 130 mi­cro­grams per nor­mal cu­bic me­ter (μg/Ncm) in terms of to­tal sus­pended par­tic­u­lates (TSP), up from 106 μg/Ncm at year’s end in 2014; for com­par­i­son, the max­i­mum safe level of air pol­lu­tant con­cen­tra­tion is 90 μg/ Ncm. This means we are breath­ing in more than our

fair share of pol­lu­tants and ir­ri­tants called par­tic­u­late mat­ter, or PM, that come from com­bus­tion prod­ucts; the re­sult of space heat­ing, in­dus­trial pro­cesses, power gen­er­a­tion, and mo­tor ve­hi­cle use.

Stud­ies from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion say that pol­lu­tion, par­tic­u­larly from PM that can find its way deep into lungs, is to blame for 3.2 mil­lion pre­ventable deaths ev­ery year. Worse news is there are not enough trees in the metro to of­fer even a sigh of re­lief, as they are mostly in pocket parks. And what’s left of big­ger, leafier ar­eas are al­ready be­ing con­sid­ered for com­mer­cial and real es­tate pur­poses. There is sim­ply less space to breathe freely.

The rains also bring the other peren­nial prob­lem: flood­ing. What was once con­fined to ar­eas such as Mal­abon and Navotas has now be­come a prob­lem in main thor­ough­fares. The in­ad­e­quacy of proper drainage sys­tems as more in­fra­struc­ture rises is part of the prob­lem. In­for­mal set­tlers dump­ing ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing the kitchen sink in es­teros is an­other prob­lem in it­self.

The city is sim­ply giv­ing out. What was once a beau­ti­ful and thriv­ing hub of art deco build­ings and well-kept pub­lic parks is suc­cumb­ing to ur­ban de­cay, the faded glory ev­i­dent in the nos­tal­gic Face­book posts of premier ur­ban plan­ner Paolo Al­carazen. Metro Manila is a crowded mega­lopo­lis, with a pop­u­la­tion of 16.5 mil­lion peo­ple as of 2010 and a pop­u­la­tion den­sity that has in­creased from 11,900 peo­ple per square kilo­me­ter to al­most 13,000 be­tween 2000 and 2010, ac­cord­ing to a World Bank study.

The ques­tion now is, what are we to do? To keep our san­ity and health in­tact, to keep body and soul to­gether, it might be wor­thy to con­sider making a move— mean­ing pack­ing our bags and set­tling some­where else. This isn’t about fall­ing off the radar: a move can go ei­ther north to out­ly­ing ar­eas such as Bu­la­can or to the south where there are up­scale and well-planned com­mu­ni­ties sprout­ing up in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the

wors­en­ing con­ges­tion sit­u­a­tion.

Both sides are ac­ces­si­ble via the NLEX and the SLEX, and both are now gear­ing up for com­mer­cial­iza­tion and set­tle­ment via the set­ting up of schools and hos­pi­tals. Xavier School has a cam­pus in Nu­vali, for ex­am­ple, and De La Salle also has one in Can­lubang, both in La­guna. In short, fam­i­lies with kids can live there and thrive. Also, un­like years ago when ru­ral folks had to make a pil­grim­age to ma­jor malls like SM North in Que­zon City or the Quad in Makati, com­mer­cial ar­eas com­plete with su­per­mar­kets, restau­rants, and even branded out­let stores now make shop­ping closer to home.

For yup­pies who strug­gle with get­ting to Makati or Or­ti­gas on time ev­ery morn­ing, the good news is that there is also em­ploy­ment avail­able at the cap­i­tal’s out­skirts with in­dus­trial parks and lo­ca­tors for the BPO in­dus­try mov­ing cer­tain oper­a­tions into ar­eas out­side of Metro Manila. The morn­ing com­mute in th­ese ris­ing cor­po­rate cen­ters would prob­a­bly be only around 30 min­utes, a Sun­day drive com­pared to the three hours usu­ally spent on the city’s roads.

Those who dream of making an im­pact can even con­sider start­ing and grow­ing a busi­ness in th­ese new com­mu­ni­ties, which can help pro­vide lo­cal em­ploy­ment, less­en­ing the need to move to Manila in search of bet­ter eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. An­other good re­sult: even less con­ges­tion.

Yes, the su­per­clubs here might miss your pres­ence, but a fan­tas­tic trade­off would be a clear view of the night sky, no gar­ish bill­boards, no too-bright LED lights. Morn­ings are eas­ier and un­hur­ried, and you might get to feel like be­long­ing in a com­mu­nity once again in­stead of the so­cial dis­con­nect that marks city liv­ing. Think back to the times when you went on an out-of-town trip and found tran­quil­ity and a laid-back vibe that you loved so much. You dreaded go­ing back to the ur­ban jun­gle. Now, think about liv­ing like that ev­ery sin­gle day.

“To keep our san­ity and health in­tact, to keep body and soul to­gether, it might be wor­thy to con­sider making a move; pack­ing our bags and set­tling some­where else.”

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